Group members: Sara, Youmna, Anna, Olympe
Hello! We are four students who worked together for five months on an interesting project for our Innovation and Prototyping course at Haaga-Helia. We all have different backgrounds, but we managed to combine our strengths to work together and to get this project done.
Our team is composed of Olympe, a French student who came to study in Finland for six months and who had no experience in the IT field before.
Sara is a Finnish first-year student in the Haaga-Helia Business Information Technology student. She is very interested in UX/UI, especially digital accessibility. Sara has never used the C programming language, but she was very eager to learn. She has never had any experience in robotics or 3D printing, so she was very excited to have an opportunity to play around.
Youmna is also a first-year student in Haaga-Helia’s business Information Technology program. Her major is digital services. She has taken the introduction to software development course but didn’t know anything about C programming language so this was a new learning experience for her.
Anna is a first-year Information Technology student at Haaga-Helia as well. Her studies are geared towards front-end development. This is her first time being even near an Arduino or programming in C language.
In a team brainstorming session, each person had five minutes to write down project ideas, then passed their paper to their neighbour to develop further on those ideas. After thirty minutes of thinking, we came up with an impressive list of project ideas.
Two ideas caught our attention: the first was a system to remove hair in shower pipes, while the second was an automatic watering system for plants. After discussing each of these two ideas, our group settled on an automatic watering system that checks soil moisture and initiates the watering system based on those readings. It also notifies us if the water level is low so it can be refilled.
Why did we choose this?
Simply because we found the concept of a self-watering system for plants interesting, and we had many ideas to develop this project. Moreover, this project is also in line with current concerns about sustainability because it allows us to keep the plants alive even in our absence, while minimizing water waste thanks to precise irrigation management.
What did you need to learn
The scope of the project is to create a self-watering system that uses sensors to measure the level of moisture in the soil and distribute the necessary amount of water to the plants. The goal is to optimize plant watering by providing an accurate and efficient amount of water, while avoiding unnecessary water waste.
However, beyond this main goal, we had others. We wanted to bring our idea to life and explore the realm of innovation. We were keen on being actively involved in the creation process and tackling any challenges that arose along the way. We were also very excited to learn how to build and innovate things using Arduino which is known for its versatility and flexibility.
We were also eager to gain a comprehensive understanding of the C programming language and its complexities to develop highly effective programs.
Above all, we wanted to explore all the opportunities of this course and acquire new skills without imposing any limitations on ourselves.
The building phase
For our project, we decided to use the Arduino computer platform. Therefore, the first major step was to learn how it works and to get familiar with it. For this, we used the Arduino manual and practiced connecting the wires correctly on the breadboard.
Once we learned how to use the platform, we asked our teacher to give us a sensor that could measure soil moisture. We then connected this sensor to our Arduino board and wrote code in a software program called Arduino IDE, using the Internet and the help of ChatGPT. Finally, we tested that it all worked by testing the sensor with a plant.
If a red light appeared, it meant that the soil was dry. On the contrary, if the light was blue, it meant that the soil was wet.
This was already a big step forward. We understood how to operate the sensor and get results.
However, after discussion, we decided to switch to the ESP 32 to get real-time soil moisture updates. So, we asked our teacher to order it. Once we received it, we learned how to use it and how to hook up the sensors.
We were then interested in the threshold at which we should start the watering pump. To do this, we carried out tests using three sensors.
So, we concluded that 45-50% would be a good threshold to start the watering pump, and that it should water up to 100%.
We then launched a prototype of our idea, to get an overview and see what remains to be done.
Phase after that was turning prototype into the working model. In our case it meant getting 3D printed holders for the water pump, sturdier way to keep the hose up.
We also opted out of using LCD screen because of the ESP32 ability to be programmed to send messages to Teams etc.
The final introduction to our system was a small transistor to power our water pump and reduction of the number of wires required to measure the water level. A much simpler way meant we would measure water only at one level and we added the copper for better conduction.
Here is photo evidence of Sara testing our creation:
The project we undertook required us to be challenged and to be pushed beyond our limits. We had to brainstorm and generate innovative ideas that were unconventional. This demanded a great deal of inventiveness and boldness on our part.
In the process of completing the project, we acquired valuable skills in teamwork, effective communication, and task allocation based on our respective strengths and interests. We also developed the capacity to be flexible in the face of unforeseen circumstances.
The project sparked our enthusiasm to explore more possibilities. We envisage future development by incorporating additional features that we had initially conceived but didn’t integrate into the current version. Indeed, we plan to include UV lamps to aid plant growth, install sensors for monitoring air temperature and humidity levels, and implement an automated nutrient distribution system during watering. We need to learn to understand the logic of coding in C to make our plans come to fruition because in our opinion currently our biggest issue is coding because tinkering, we really started to get a handle on.
As for the final outcome of the project, it doesn’t work quite as we intended it to work mostly due to timing issues. Even though we did not manage to build a fully functioning prototype for the irrigation system, we now have an amazing opportunity to continue working on it with other courses. Regardless of not making a complete prototype, we still feel that the project was a huge success. After all our goal for the course was to overcome the limitations we have placed for our skills ourselves, and tackle the project with a curious and innovative mindset. The biggest lesson we have received from this course, is that it is possible to learn anything given the right surroundings and resources, and in our books that’s the most important lesson to learn for the future!